Elite Trading Requires Setting Time To Have Fun

This tweet was inspired by an independent trader struggling to balance his personal life with his trading.  He reached out for help.  He wrote:

I want to consult with you about a certain thing that I have not been able to change for two years, since I started trading and it bothers me a lot.

I can not balance my personal life with my career life.

I am 21 years old, I started trading at 19, I started from nothing, no one around me knows anything about success so I researched everything possible, personal development, psychology, economics, lots and lots of quality books and lots of quality content until I got to trading and of course I found my destiny 🙂

But it sucks so much, I have no second in my life that I do not think about trading, studying, trading, analyzing the trades, watching videos of my trades

From 5AM until I go to sleep and also in my dreams I dream on trading, which is good and great but, I have to balance so as not to be too busy with thoughts and it is good sometimes to be thoughtless, I just do not succeed.

I think it’s my blessing and curse in life to be so focused on my goals and the process.

I wanted to ask if you have any advice to give me so I can balance my life a bit.

Please join the conversation to help this trader on Twitter here.

Bella thoughts

Here are my thoughts:

1. I was on a Zoom call in my NYC apartment, after putting the kids to bed, reviewing the yearly goals of two elite traders.  One was an international trader, who is one of the best in his space in his homeland.  The other is an elite trader at a tier 1 prop firm.  I had read the yearly goals of the international trader and started with the very topic raised by the trader above.  I asked this star international trader: where your time to have fun?

From my seat, elite trading performance requires a trader setting time to have fun.  Enjoying your life outside of trading brings you to your trading seat better able to make better decisions in real-time.  Your energy will be higher during trading hours.  Your focus will be better during trading hours.  Your ability to process information will be better during market hours.  Your sustained focus will be better during market hours.  Your open-mindedness will be better.  Your collaboration improved.  Your controlled aggression better activated.  Your equanimity easier to find.  In short, you will be a better trader.

Said better, making time to enjoy yourself outside of trading makes you a better trader.

2. Two of the best traders with whom I work, thoughtfully consider how to make trading work within their ideal lifestyle.  Enjoying their life is their ultimate goal.  Ensuring that trading does not impede this ultimate goal is implemented.  Trading enables them to live their ideal lifestyle.  Trading is not their life, but rather a vehicle to live the life they wish.

3. I am sitting in one of our conference rooms during a monthly review and what transpires? Two successful traders at SMB, who run seriously, AGAIN highlight how running helps them trade better.

4. Our top younger trader regularly hits the gym midday to keep his bulk on. Also, hitting the gym helps him destress and recharge for the close of trading.  During monthly trading reviews, this star trader pinpoints that keeping fit is a necessity for him to perform as a trader.

5. One of the most effective exercises we ask traders to do is answer this question:

What is something that will significantly improve your life that you will be able to obtain, if you hit your trading goals? 

For one trader with whom I work, it was to buy a new home for his family.  For another trader at the firm, it was to buy a new condo in the States.  For another trader, it was to make enough to be able to retire (not that he will, just that he could).  For another trader, it was to get their own pad in NYC.

When I first started trading, I really wanted to make enough to join an exclusive gym, with an expensive initiation fee.  Next, it was to get my own place.  It doesn’t matter how large or small the goal, relative to others.  The key is that reaching your next trading goals are connected to a significant improvement in your life.

The reason why this is one the most effective exercises is because it is not just improving your trading, but also improving your life.

6. There is a reason why firms have happy hours.

7. One of the best weekends of 21 was heading to Vegas, with a bunch of SMB Traders, for Traders4ACause.  The fun had outside of trading hours builds a stronger bond amongst the traders.  Shared experiences, where boys will be boys, cannot be replicated during market hours.  Shared experiences (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!) makes them closer, which leads to more cohesive trading teams.  And it builds a stronger bond between them and me, for which I am grateful.

8. Dr. Steenbarger, the best trading coach in the world, and our in-house trading coach, repeatedly and passionately encourages traders to set comprehensive, holistic, and whole-person goals.  For example, senior interns submit their Personal Development Plan, as opposed to trading goals.  When there is much to be grateful for outside of markets, losing trades don’t negatively affect a trader, as they could if your self-worth was overly tied into your trading success.

Being a successful person, full of different things for which to be grateful, increases your chances of being a successful trader.

9. Making a lot of money does not make you rich.  From Charlie Munger in Richer, Wiser, Happier, a book gifted to me by an elite trader I mentor:

“If all you succeed in doing in life is getting rich by buying little pieces of paper, it’s a failed life. Life is more than being shrewd in wealth accumulation.”

Train well.  Trade well.  Live better.

Important disclosures

Mike Bellafiore is the Co-Founder of SMB Capital, a proprietary trading desk, and SMB Training, which provides trading education in stocks, options, and futures. Bella is the author of One Good Trade and The PlayBook. He welcomes your trading questions at [email protected]